GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Local families fighting for justice and accountability for their sons who were hurt or killed by police watched the Chauvin verdict with they say is a heavy yet hopeful heart.
“I'm trying to be hopeful,” said Josetta Blocker. “But I'm also disheartened by all of the other mothers and all of the other impacted families that are crying out for justice. I’m lucky because Demonte didn’t die.”
Josetta Blocker’s 25-year-old nephew Demonte Ward-Blake will never walk again. Ward-Blake is paralyzed after a police officer handcuffed him and then slammed his body to the ground. It was a traffic stop back in Oct. 2019 that his girlfriend recorded on her cellphone. Prince George’s County Police officer Bryant Strong is now facing several charges including second-degree assault.
Melody Cooper’s 24-year old son Kwamena Ocran was shot and killed by Gaithersburg Police on Jan. 8, 2021. There is no video to show us what happened. The four plainclothes officers were not required to wear body cameras. It’s a policy, Gaithersburg Police told WUSA9 is now under review. The officers involved are on leave.
Police initially said they had a call of a man with a gun, they identified themselves, Ocran ran, they shot him and later found a gun. But Cooper and her attorney said they found witnesses who told a very different story.
“They (police) shot him in his back a few times, and he fell forward,” recalled Cooper, “then he was kicked over, and they decided to stand over top of him and continue to shoot in his lifeless body.”
WUSA9 could not access the autopsy or police report. Gaithersburg and Montgomery County Police have now handed the investigation to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office. A spokesperson told WUSA9 they could not comment because their case is still under review.
“We cannot necessarily give police officers the benefit of the doubt,” said Cooper’s attorney Brian McDaniel.
Cooper’s lawyer said there is a lesson taken from the murder of George Floyd. The initial news release from Minneapolis Police indicated Floyd suffered a medical emergency and was transported to a hospital. But it did not match up with what the video showed the world and the jury to be true.
“It puts them (police) in a position where they can advance a narrative that may not be consistent with what actually happened,” said attorney McDaniel. “There has to be an analysis, there has to be a fair and full investigation into all of these types of cases.”
“My son is not here, physically, he lives within me spiritually,” added Cooper, “and as right now I am his eyes, ears and mouth.”
“Unless we vote out that poison that's rotting the system,” said Blocker, “It's going to be a long fight.”